Home Articles GIS getting subsumed into engg workflows

GIS getting subsumed into engg workflows

Within infrastructure engineering workflows, organisations are no longer willing to tolerate the inefficiencies of having GIS and CAD workflows disconnected.
Richard Zambuni
Global Marketing Director
Bentley Systems Inc.

There has been an increasing need to integrate CAD and GIS solutions. What is the reason for this trend?

Within infrastructure engineering workflows, organisations are no longer willing to tolerate the inefficiencies of having GIS and CAD workflows disconnected. Disconnected workflows lead to data being created in silos, and this in turn means that there is often data loss or data re-creation, when ideally the data would simply flow through the workflow being accessed or enhanced, and then posted back to the spatial data store as the workflow progresses without any loss of integrity. At the end of the day, the integration of CAD and GIS technology is all about being more efficient with limited resources and organisations are increasingly less tolerant of any area within IT that is disconnected and isolated. This is not an issue of whether either CAD or GIS is more important than the other; it’s simply an issue of integrating CAD and GIS seamlessly within engineering workflows. This is at the heart of Bentley’s approach to GIS technology under our strategy of ‘advancing GIS for infrastructure’. We have created Bentley Geospatial Server to ensure both seamless access to GIS data at an enterprise level & to ensure that non-spatial engineering data of whatever nature can be associated with objects and locations that can be browsed spatially.

How has this integration facilitated/bettered the design and engineering processes?

There is no doubt that where GIS technology is made available seamlessly within engineering workflows, organisations achieve higher levels of efficiency and they typically end up with the holy grail of higher data integrity. GIS data are often the basis of any project so this integration is fundamental to a project getting started quickly with accurate data.

How is convergence of technologies from architecture, engineering, geospatial and 3D simulation contributing to sustainable environmental, economic and socio political developments?

Infrastructure is at the very heart of economic progress and so the ability to be able to move seamlessly between GIS technology, BIM models, other civil engineering models, or between modelling and analysing the likely behaviour of new infrastructure and the original designs is vital. And, complex new infrastructure will require designs for multiple classes of infrastructure where this kind of convergence is vital. The ideal situation is to be able to design this entire infrastructure using a single or at least a limited number of file formats that are capable of persisting data throughout the workflow from planning to design, construction, and operations. Twenty-first century will be the century of infrastructure as we tackle the problems of ageing infrastructure on the one hand and the need to help people achieve higher standards of health and a higher overall quality of life in developing countries. We should add to this the need to develop infrastructure for a post fossil-fuel society – a society that will have to be a reality by the second half of the century as we reach and pass peak oil production and begin to lower our carbon emissions to forestall further climate change. Technology convergence will be necessary to empower the engineers who will be at the forefront of solving these knotty problems.

What is the emerging trend in the use of GIS for design and engineering?

Those software vendors who began as CAD vendors are increasingly building core geospatial capabilities into their products and making it easier to access GIS data, since they are critical in most workflows. However, this is an applied approach to GIS technology and there will continue to be a need for generic GIS technology in academia and elsewhere that has nothing to do with the world of infrastructure design and engineering. In particular, Bentley is putting geospatial technology into all of its solutions as part of its platform technology. With the release of Bentley’s V8i generation of technology, MicroStation now offers intrinsic geo-coordination for all projects, and ProjectWise Integration Server now comes with a map-based interface for access to heterogeneous engineering documentation. Bentley now has GIS technology to support both individual practitioner and enterprise workflows, whatever the source of data. We do not believe that it is a question of CAD versus GIS any more, that is an old and sterile argument, it’s simply a question of how GIS data are introduced into the engineering workflows and how easy it is for designers to access those data as part of their everyday work. In a way, GIS technology has become more important in the engineering world and at the same time less visible as a separate ‘department’ as it becomes subsumed within the higher level engineering workflow. Finally, a future trend that has a long way to run in this context is the growing role of formal industry standards like WMS, WFS and CityGML on the one hand, and on the other, there is a growing role for de facto standards like Oracle Spatial as a spatial data repository and e.g. GeoPDF for the easy exchange of files rich in GIS data.